Your Presence is a Gift
The greatest present you can give someone is your true presence. We recently wrote about overcoming loneliness and came to the conclusion that at the deeper level the only lasting remedy is to feel understood by the people who are close to us and to feel like we understand them too. But there is a much faster way, instantaneous actually, to lower your existential loneliness. It’s having someone else fully present with you, there in the moment, not distracted by their surroundings, not preoccupied with their own thoughts.
We can make the mistake of thinking about loneliness in more general, theoretical terms, but really it’s a feeling of emptiness and longing that you experience in the moment. The true presence of someone else is incompatible with this state because in that moment someone else is sharing your space.
You can’t understand someone unless you have been truly present with them, and you can’t love someone unless you understand them, so love starts with mindfulness, the ability to let the past and future go in order to just come into the moment with the other, focusing all your attention on what is going on between you right there and then.
The relationship between presence and understanding is hopefully pretty obvious. When people feel like no one understands them, at bottom it’s because they feel like no one is really listening to them. They might have their own things going on, their own perceptions, their own existential needs. If someone is really there for you and listening deeply to what you have to say, which is of course what all good therapists try to do, then chances are you will feel understood.
Being present for your beloved can be easy when things are going well and you are having a ball together. It becomes all the more important when things are difficult though, when you are going through hard times and one or both of you is suffering. This is where leaving judgments and accusations behind and coming to the present moment in order to practice deep listening, to be truly present for the other, is better than any present you could give. The distance that may have sprung up between you will dissipate and feelings of loneliness will quickly be replaced by feelings of connection.